Capturing years and decades of a lifetime, and squeezing them in a two-hour time span seems almost impossible. For screenwriter Marcus Hinchey, it was something he felt compelled to do. Eight years ago, Hinchey was on a flight from Los Angeles to New York when he began listening to a 2005 episode of NPR’s This American Life. The episode he’d chosen was entitled “Heretics,” and followed the rise and fall of Tusla Pentecostal Bishop Carlton Pearson. After years of preaching at his immensely popular and massive Higher Dimensions church (which also boasted a mix-race congregation), Bishop Pearson came to believe that everyone is already saved and that there is no hell. For his convictions, he would lose everything.
Hinchey has been in talks with This American Life producers Ira Glass and Alissa Ship about adapting some of their shows for film, but “Heretics” propelled him forward. “Within about 15 minutes I knew I wanted to write the film,” he explained to me in a quiet room tucked away from the noise and frenzy of the Sundance Film Festival. “I had never heard of anybody like Carlton. I grew up in a very different world than he did, but I’d had some experience with Pentecostal churches, and they never convinced me of very much. But when I heard him speak he had this incredible ability to go from scripture into an anecdote with so much humor, it was like listening to Richard Pryor.”
Hinchey set out to write the script for Come Sunday by spending as much time as possible with Bishop Pearson and his family. “By the time I landed I’d listened to the episode twice, and I knew that I really wanted to do it,” he recalled. “On the one hand you had this extraordinary character, and there are so few, and on the other hand, you had an almost archetypal story which is a man who gives up everything for what he believes in.”
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